Unmasked: the man who stood in Leicester Square with no message

Last week, I wrote a blog about a man who “stood in Leicester Square with a placard saying he had absolutely no message for the world

His name was Phil Klein.

It was not his first time in Leicester Square and here, indeed, is a YouTube clip which appears to have been shot in 2007, before he became a man who held a nihilistic placard:

In retrospect, I have to say, when I stopped and talked to him on a whim last week, he did look vaguely familiar, as did the name. But I thought that was because Phil Klein is not that uncommon a name and comedy maverick Phil ‘Pigeon Man’ Zimmerman is a British alternative comedian while Alan Klein was the American who managed The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

After my blog was posted, though, UK comedy cognoscente Ian Fox told me: “Phil Klein used to be a comic.”

When he was working as a comic, one description of his act (I think penned by Phil himself) was: “His humour incorporates themes on being Jewish, coming from Hampstead, George Dubya, how the Aussies love the English really. Though, if all else fails, he is liable to down a pint (or more) on stage.”

Ian Fox told me that “Phil performed in the Canon’s Gait venue at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe. Every day when he finished his show – he never used a microphone, just shouted at the audience – he’d be quite sweaty and in the change-over period between shows I’d ask him how it went. He always answered the same way: I think I need to work on my material.”

That 2005 Fringe show was called A1A Phil Klein and the Fringe Programme description read: “An honest, warts-and-all exploration of being messed up and Jewish or a blatant attempt to be first in the programme? Take a seat for half an hour on the rollercoaster that is Phil’s life.”

He appears to have got no review for the show, but he was less lucky in 2006, when his show on the PBH Free Fringe was titled The Growing Pains of Amos Phineas Klein Age 33 And A Third and the Chortle comedy website’s one-star review said:

“When a comedy show is free, you have to expect an audience that isn’t 100 per cent focused on the show. But you don’t normally expect it of the comedian. Amos Phileas Klein spends almost the whole of the second half of his show playing with his phone. At first I thought he had some notes on the set stored on there that he was looking up: unprofessional but forgivable. But it soon becomes clear that this isn’t the case ­ it seems he is involved in a text conversation with someone, while delivering in an increasingly distracted fashion. It’s a truly shocking degree of contempt for his audience.”

Future Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Jay Richardson, writing in The Scotsman, suggested: ”It’s less a comedy gig than a hostage taking.”

After reading my blog last week, Brian Damage, who runs the Pear Shaped Comedy Clubs told me: “Last time Phil did Pear Shaped he borrowed £10 off me and fell asleep,” and, on the Pear Shaped website, Brian writes that Phil “was for many years our chief competitor. However he has now retired to spend more time with his personality.”

Around 2005, Phil used to be co-promoter and co-compere of The Funny Bone comedy club in Finchley Road, near his home in Hampstead, as well as running another comedy night in North London at The Culdesac. In May 2005, Chortle wrote:

“Regular compering at the small empire of open-spot gigs he runs in central London has given him a level of comfort at being on stage, but even with that near-daily experience of performing, he still doesn’t appear naturally funny… He comes across relatively effortlessly as a nice enough bloke, but there’s a yawning gap between that and the X-factor that will elevate him from the open mic circuit. On current form, it’s a gulf Klein cannot bridge.”

This is a YouTube clip of him performing in London, it seems likely, in 2006:

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Unmasked: the man who stood in Leicester Square with no message

  1. Phil used to run a small empire of clubs with Mike Manera … over time the relationship became, shall we say, somehat strained. Eventually they parted company amicably. I particularly remember that when Phil got thrown out of one venue and scaled down his operation to a smaller venue down the road the other pub (which I think was the Red Lion) bought the chairs off the old pub … so it was as if the funiture was following him from room to room.

    Anyway, he came to Pear Shaped the other week and was actually a bit funny …seemingly he has started writing material. He’s been a few times before but mainly ususally falls asleep in a corner and looks depressed.

  2. This is a communication to a Mr Steve Bennett, a Comedic Reporter from the land we know as Chortle land, where everyone has a good old chortle, when they aren’t acting like cunts to each other in a good, old-fashioned, English passive-aggressive, “Let’s pretend we’re friends while stabbing each other in the back” kind of way.

    You were right, Mr Bennett, there was “a yawning gap” between me coming across “effortlessly as a nice enough bloke” and “the X-factor that will elevate him from the open mic circuit.”

    You’re right there was a yawning gap, but here’s the thing, when people yawn it is because they are bored. What I just got, at the time, was that the gap between being an open mic comedian and a pro comedian was indeed yawning, i.e. very, very boring, and I wasn’t interested in it. Because the truth is that the world of comedy is fucking boring, and I want no part in it whatsoever. Because I want to be around interesting people who are up to stuff in life, and, frankly, most comedians aren’t.

    And, yes, if you think that’s arrogant, fine, I’m arrogant. Which is actually a reflection of just how unbelievably arrogant so many of you are. Cos, you pretend you’re mates with other comedians, when the truth is you are trying to get one over each other all the time, and you want them to fuck up and die on their arse so that you can feel better about yourselves. I know, cos I was as bad as anyone, but at least I’m honest about what I’m like, whereas most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all.

    And that is why I have zero interest in doing comedy at all. Cos the world of comedy stinks. It pretends it’s different to the work place when, actually, it’s exactly the same. Boring and dull people (the comedians) being boring and dull, as other boring and dull people (the audience) watch them being boring and dull, while being jealous of the fact that at least the boring and dull people (comedians) have the cohones to show the world just how boring and dull they are.

    I’m saying this, cos that is what you all really think, and you are all just pretending otherwise.

    And, yes, of course, there are same great people in comedy, some amazing people who are very, very interesting, and up to brilliant, fantastic, fabulous things (my kinds people). But, sadly, most of the people who either perform or watch or promote comedy are boring and dull with not a whole lot going on in their lives, and that is why I want nothing to do with it, after I finish the three remaining gigs I have left at the Cavendish and the Water Poet.

    Oh, and Bennett, you saw me being naturally very funny twice at the London Comedy Festival in 2005, and it is shocking that you made no mention of that, though, on the whole, your review was fair based on that gig you saw at at Hammersmith.

  3. Phil Klein

    Look, here’s the thing. Yeah, I know what I said hurt some people and was a little bit over the top. But the point stands: comedians are extraordinary people, but too often they’ve played a smaller game than they could and should have done. Anyway, the point is that, yeah, it is time for me to leave all this bullshit behind, and we will all meet again on the other side, because me and Melissa long for connection with you as much as you long for connection with us. And, yeah, in a very real way, I – Phil Klein – am God and Melissa Sheehy is the Goddess – which is something you all missed out on. But again the point is this: whether people like it or not me and Melissa are leaving all this bullshit behind us. And we will see you all on the other side in the not too distant future. But until then, ta ta.

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